Sally Watches…Murder, She Wrote (The Sequel)!

Last month, my review of A Time to Remember became my 150th movie review! In that review, I said that I would be publishing a special post to commemorate this achievement. For the Mystery Mania Blogathon last March, I wrote an article where I reviewed some episodes of Murder, She Wrote. After I published that article, the moderator of that blogathon, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie, recommended some episodes for me to watch. So, in this post, I’m bringing back “Sally Watches…Murder, She Wrote”! This time, however, I’ll be reviewing the episodes that Robin shared with me in the comment section!

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Since I reviewed this book last October, this image felt like a good fit for this post. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: We’re Off to Kill the Wizard

Season 1, Episode 7

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1984

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The title card for “We’re Off to Kill the Wizard”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In some Murder, She Wrote episodes, the mystery starts at the halfway point. But the mystery in ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ began fifteen minutes into the episode. This allowed the mystery to be explored much sooner. It also kept the audience’s interest in what was happening in the story. When it came to exposition, there was enough room set aside to keep viewers satisfied. Within the first fifteen minutes, the audience was introduced to the characters, setting, and lead-up to the mystery in an effective way. In this period of time, nothing felt rushed or overlooked. The screenwriters associated with this episode took their time in an effort to let all story-telling elements flourish.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When I discovered this episode would take place in an amusement park, I was excited to see what kind of perspective would be associated with this location. While it was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes aspect of theme parks, I was disappointed by how there was no educational or insightful commentary provided. For example, in the episode, ‘Film Flam’, the different steps involved with organizing a movie premiere were showcased. This process was an educational and insightful look into the movie industry. With ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, I don’t feel like I learned anything new about the amusement park industry. Not including this kind of information in the episode seems like a missed opportunity.

 

The mystery itself:

I found the mystery in ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ to be interactive and engaging! As I already mentioned, it helps that the mystery started fifteen minutes into the episode. It gave the audience an opportunity to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. However, I think the resolution was met way too quickly and it was a little too far-fetched. I’m not going to spoil this episode if you haven’t seen it. But it required more suspension of disbelieve than I expected.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • When Robin recommended this episode to me, she brought it to my attention that Joaquin Phoenix guest starred in this episode. I’m glad she pointed this out because I wouldn’t have known that piece of information otherwise. It’s always nice to see a familiar face on Murder, She Wrote! It’s also interesting to see how far Joaquin has come as an actor.

 

  • In the haunted house attraction at the amusement park, there was a prop that consisted of a giant face. All I’ll say is, to me, it looked creepy.

 

  • During this episode, one of the male employees at the amusement park made a comment to Jessica about seduction. I understand that the ‘80s were a different time compared to today. But, personally, I don’t think this comment aged very well. It made me feel uncomfortable and was very off-putting. I’m honestly surprised that the comment wasn’t omitted from the script.

 

  • Toward the beginning of this episode, there was a demonstration where a few actors were acting out a scene to promote the theme park’s haunted house attraction. This demonstration was so convincing, that I honestly thought the episode’s murder had taken place. Fortunately, none of the characters were harmed and it was all an act. That specific scene shows just how talented the actors and screenwriters were in this episode!

 

My overall thoughts:

I liked ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ more than other episodes I’ve seen. However, there are elements in this episode that could have made it stronger. I wish this script would have left some room to provide educational or insightful commentary about the amusement park industry. It would have provided interesting content for the story. Also, the resolution of the mystery was far-fetched and way too easily resolved. This took away some of the narrative’s believability. While I respect the show’s creative team for thinking outside the box, the execution could have been better.

 

Rating: A 3.5 out of 5

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Yesterday: Guest star on Murder, She Wrote Today: Cinematic champion Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Paint Me a Murder

Season 1, Episode 14

Premiere Date: February 17th, 1985

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The title card for “Paint Me a Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

The biggest showstopper in ‘Paint Me a Murder’ was the scenery! According to IMDB, this episode was filmed in California. Since the Golden State does have picturesque beaches and appealing foliage, it makes sense for the creative team to take advantage of this location. From the beach to the grounds of Diego’s photogenic house, everything was appealing to look at and was captured well on camera. Like I’ve said before, the show’s location scout deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award!

 

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Because the subject of art was incorporated in this story, I was hoping to learn more about the art industry through this episode. But, similar to ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, no commentary was provided in the narrative. In fact, art didn’t play as big of a role in this story as I expected. If anything, it felt like it was an afterthought. The limited amount of attention for this subject made me disappointed. Also, like ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, this lack of commentary was a missed opportunity.

 

The mystery itself:

‘Paint Me a Murder’ consisted of two mysteries, as there are two murders taking place in the story. There’s also a guest that’s trying to harm Diego. Even though there were more mysteries in this episode than are usually on Murder, She Wrote, I still found them to be engaging! Enough suspects and clues keep the audience invested in the story. Another thing that helped was letting the audience solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This creative choice allowed a sense of interactivity to be incorporated into the episode.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • Out of all the Murder, She Wrote episodes I’ve seen, the cast in ‘Paint Me a Murder’ is one of the most star-studded! Besides having Angela Lansbury as the lead actress of the episode, some of the guest stars include Cesar Romero, Stewart Granger, and Robert Goulet. I’d say that the star power is strong with this story!

 

  • At one point in this episode, Diego shares how his faith has influenced his art. As I said in my review of “The Days Dwindle Down”, Murder, She Wrote is not known for introducing thought-provoking dialogue and encouraging conversation. But seeing the idea of faith playing a role in one of the character’s lives was interesting to see in this episode. It reminded me of the brief discussion about how different people view topics relating to belief systems from “The Legacy of Borbey House”.

 

  • The biggest flaw of ‘Paint Me a Murder’ was how it sometimes felt like a soap opera. There were some scenes where characters would sit around and talk about their problems. Relationship drama is also a common occurrence in this episode. Personally, I didn’t find this part of the story to be interesting.

 

My overall thoughts:

Even though I liked this episode more than ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, it still had its flaws. The soap opera element of the story should have been left out. There also should have been some commentary about the art world. However, I did think the mysteries were interesting. I also liked the cast in this episode, as it consisted of very talented actors and actresses. The best part of ‘Paint Me a Murder’ is the scenery! Murder, She Wrote has a good track record when it comes to their sets and backdrops. This episode is a perfect example of this!

 

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

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How can anyone look at this beach and not think it’s breathtaking? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Murder Takes the Bus

Season 1, Episode 18

Premiere Date: March 17th, 1985

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The title card for “Murder Takes the Bus”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In this episode, the show’s creative team did a good job when it came to paying homage to the classic film, Psycho. The setting was a dark and stormy night, similar to the setting in Alfred Hitchcock’s film. The weather condition causes the characters in the episode to rest at a road-side diner. This situation is similar to how Marion ended up at the Bates Motel. Another similarity is the murder in each story takes place at the rest-stop. Details like this that are found in the story show how much the show’s creative team respected this iconic film.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Unlike the film this episode was paying tribute to, ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ featured too many characters in the story. Because there were so many people in this episode, it was difficult to keep track of who was who. It also didn’t allow the characters to be fully developed in their own narratives. There wasn’t enough time or room in the script to truly get to know these characters. This did a disservice to the actors and actresses in this episode.

 

The mystery itself:

Since there were so many characters in this episode, it took the primary focus away from solving the mystery. Instead, the episode was about the characters and their various conversations. This brought down the intrigue of the story and I did not find it to be very interesting. The mystery started within the first twelve minutes of the episode. But that’s the only good thing I can say about it.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • As I already mentioned, the setting of ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ is a dark and stormy night. I’ve seen other episodes where this setting has been placed in the story. Every time this has happened, the creative team does a good job creating the setting! Even though the lighting is used sparingly, it’s still enough to see what is going on in the scenes. This choice is to represent lightening and it appears effective on screen! It also sets the mood for the rest of the episode.

 

  • It was nice to see Rue McClanahan guest star in this episode! I’ve seen her acting work on The Golden Girls and in a few Hallmark films. Her role in ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ was different from those other projects. This gave Rue the opportunity to move out of her acting creative zone!

 

My overall thoughts:

I was not a fan of this episode. The homage toward Psycho was a nice touch, but the episode itself was executed poorly. Having too characters was the biggest flaw of ‘Murder Takes the Bus’. It tampered with every element of the story, from the character development to the mystery itself. Speaking of the mystery, it felt like an afterthought within a mystery series. Similar to ‘Paint Me a Murder’, I was not a fan of the drama among the characters. The overall episode was not interesting and had little to no intrigue.

 

Rating: A 2 out of 5

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I couldn’t tell what book Jessica was holding, but I’m wondering if it’s one of her own books? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Crossed Up

Season 3, Episode 13

Premiere Date: February 1st, 1987

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The title card for “Crossed Up”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In my review of “The Days Dwindle Down”, I talked about how I loved the Jarvis house in that episode. That same house makes an appearance in ‘Crossed Up’! The same interior and exterior shots were shown in the episode. But new perspectives were given to this location in an attempt to show it in a different light. In this episode, more exterior shots were presented, highlighting the size of the front yard. It also emphasized the wealth of the characters living there.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Throughout the episode, Jessica’s loved ones and friends don’t believe her when she tries to warn them about an upcoming murder. They honestly think she’s crazy. Had this episode aired within the show’s first season, the idea of the people in Jessica’s life looking out for her would make more sense. But because this episode was featured in the third season, it feels unnecessary. By this time, Jessica has successfully solved several mysteries. So, the warnings she receives seem out of place.

 

The mystery itself:

Like the other episodes I reviewed in this post, the mystery in ‘Crossed Up’ started early. This gave the audience a chance to solve the mystery alongside the characters. However, I didn’t like how Jessica didn’t solve the case by herself. This show is called Murder, She Wrote for a reason. If Jessica isn’t involved in the story, it defeats the purpose of that title. What makes the show work is Jessica’s intelligence and wit when it comes to each case. That aspect was lost in this episode.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • Just like I said about ‘Murder Takes the Bus’, the creative team did a good job creating the setting of a dark and stormy night. From the lighting to the sound effects, it definitely fits the tone they were going for!

 

  • In this episode, Jessica is bed-ridden due to a back injury. However, the people in Jessica’s life act like her back injury is worse than it really is. I understand that back injuries can be painful and disruptive. But the other characters view Jessica’s injury as something she needs to spend more than a week in bed for. This seemed very confusing and wasn’t as effective as the screenwriters thought.

 

My overall thoughts:

This episode of Murder, She Wrote was ok. I respect the show’s creative team for trying something new. But it didn’t work as well as it could have. ‘Crossed Up’ should have been placed somewhere in the first season. In that context, the things the characters in Jessica’s life are saying would make more sense. It also doesn’t help that Jessica doesn’t play a big role in this story. This episode kind of defeated the purpose of the show’s title.

 

Rating: A mid 3 out of 5

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This shot of the house showcases just how grand this location is! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What are your thoughts on these reviews? Are they any episodes of Murder, She Wrote you’d like me to discuss? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

 

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